Biggest golf moments of 2023: Rickie Fowler and Jason Day return to the winner’s circle

Rickie Fowler and Jason Day holding trophies

Both Rickie Fowler and Jason Day ended lengthy winless slumps in 2023.

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Ah, 2023. The year everything changed … again. For the second straight year, we left 2023 with a drastically different perspective of professional golf than we entered. Now, as we look back at the year that was — with LIV major championships, Ryder Cup controversies and oh so many other stories — we’re remembering the 15 biggest moments that defined the year in golf. Let’s get digging.

Biggest Golf Moments of 2023 …
No. 15: Viktor Hovland’s arrival 

Biggest Golf Moments of 2023 No. 14: Jason Day and Rickie Fowler return to the winner’s circle

Jason Day and Rickie Fowler have long been two of the game’s most popular players. But in recent years, it seemed that their best golf may have already been behind them.

Day ascended to the top of the pro golf pyramid as a major winner and the No. 1-ranked player in the world in 2015. But in the ensuing years, Day was beset by problems both physical and personal, struggles with his swing and his putting, and vertigo. By October 2022, Day had plummeted outside of the top 150 players in the world.

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Until this year, Day’s last PGA Tour win was the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship. But hints of a resurgence were apparent throughout the early part of the 2023 season: namely, four top-10 finishes in a row, starting with January’s Farmers Insurance Open, and a T5 at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. And then, with a final-round 62, Day ended his five-year drought with a victory at May’s AT&T Byron Nelson Championship.

He’s since also added a runner-up finish at the Open and another win, alongside Lydia Ko at the Grant Thornton Invitational. Now, Day is back to No. 19 in the world — and he’s once again eyeing the ranking’s top spot.

“For me, it’s like I want to get back to World No. 1,” Day told GOLF’s Dylan Dethier on Episode 1 of Breakthrough. “I know how it felt there. I know how hard I had to work to get there. I know what it was like when I was there, and I would make certain tweaks and changes once I get back there to ultimately stay there a lot longer than I did.”

The story of Fowler’s resurgence had a similar arc to Day’s.

Fowler has been a fan favorite since he first burst onto the PGA Tour scene in 2009, clad in head-to-toe Puma gear in his trademark shade of orange. Though he has yet to add a major to his resume, he’s come close many times — including top-5 finishes in all four majors in 2014. But his career-defining victory thus far has been the 2015 Players Championship, when he defeated Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner in an epic playoff.

Fowler’s world ranking peaked in 2016 at No. 4. But after winning the 2017 Honda Classic and the 2019 WM Phoenix Open, Fowler endured a lengthy slump. He missed out on six majors between 2021 and 2023. He also started working with a new swing coach when Butch Harmon semi-retired in 2019, and he and his longtime caddie, Joe Skovron, parted ways in August 2022. By September of 2022, Fowler had bottomed out at No. 185 in the world ranking.

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After returning to Harmon last fall, things started trending up for Fowler. A runner-up finish at the Zozo Championship in October. A T11 at the Farmers Insurance Open. A T10 at the WM Phoenix Open. Five straight T17 finishes, starting with the Players Championship. After a missed cut at the PGA Championship, Fowler posted four more T13 finishes, including a T5 at the U.S. Open — a heartbreaking finish in which he played in the final pairing, but a final-round 75 shattered his chances at claiming his first major.

And then, at last, glory. Fowler posted a score of 24-under to win the Rocket Mortgage Classic in a playoff, ending a four-year drought.

“The last two weekends definitely helped going into today,” Fowler said in the aftermath of his win. “Just know[ing] that I didn’t have to be perfect, [I] just had to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

Fowler is currently ranked 24th in the world — a far cry from where he stood just over a year ago.

“I’m obviously going to soak this one in and celebrate a bit,” Fowler said. “Yeah, it’s just been a long road.”

A long road indeed. And for both Fowler and Day, the journey continues.

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